INDIANAPOLIS -- A group of Evening MBA students from the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis will travel to Russia this month for what has become an annual study tour of emerging economies across the world.
The March 11-20 trip will take eight students to St. Petersburg and Moscow, where they will visit with U.S. and other companies doing business there and immerse themselves in the business culture. The students have spent the last eight weeks studying Russia and its economy.
"Our goal is to increase the international awareness of the students in terms of how businesses operate abroad. The more they understand about international business, the better prepared they will be for leadership roles in their companies," said Marjorie Lyles, professor of international strategic management for Kelley and holder of the OneAmerica Chair in Business Administration.
"In Russia, the political forces have a major impact on business," Lyles added. "We will look at how American firms survive when this relationship with government is so important."
Russia is considered one of the "big four" growing economies in the world, along with Brazil, India and China. The "BRIC" countries represent a growing global market some experts predict to become the most powerful economies during the next 50 years.
"This trip is about studying the economic environment businesses are facing in the rapidly changing economy," said Kristopher Baker, an Evening MBA student making the journey. He works as a software developer at BioStorage Technologies, Inc.
Baker also has participated in previous international study and consulting tours to China and Brazil offered by the Evening MBA program, based at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Graduates today leave the program with the on-the-ground experience many Indiana companies find valuable as they expand into these growing economies.
"My eyes are now open to the world," Baker said of his past study trips. "I have learned you have to be more tolerant of others and respect their cultures. Business is not easy, and you cannot force Western ways on other countries."
Each summer since 1999, Lyles has taken Evening MBA students on two-week trips to China to allow them to work as consultants for a Chinese company seeking a solution to a business issue. The emerging economies course, on the other hand, involves more of a study tour allowing students opportunities to meet with businesses and top managers and examine business challenges in important global economies.
One student group will examine the booming auto industry in Russia, while the other will study the import/export business, including the impact of political influence and Russian business practices.
Students are responsible for establishing their own contacts in their specific industries and arranging meetings during their visit. They must prepare a presentation and recommendations on their selected topic.
"This really opens up their eyes," Lyles said. "These are memories that will last a lifetime here. The experiential learning really provides a richer understanding of international business."
Kelley alumnus Nathan Feltman will guide the group. He is the former chief executive officer of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and previously spent four years in Russia as an attorney representing local law firms. He is licensed to practice law in Russia and will serve as a liaison and translator for the student group.